Thanks to the efforts of parishes, schools and businesses around the Archdiocese of Louisville, 300 impoverished families are receiving children’s Christmas gifts and some basic household supplies this week from Sister Visitor Center.
The generosity of both volunteers and donors brought tears to the eyes of the charity’s manager, Ursuline Sister Michele Intravia, as she described their efforts on Monday.
“One parish collected 100 coats” for children in need, she noted as she wiped tears from her eyes and gestured to a row of clothing racks where tiny winter coats waited to be distributed. “I could never do any of this without the volunteers and donations from parishes. We depend on them to fulfill the wishes of the 300 families we’re trying to serve.”
The coats and hundreds of other donated items have been organized in the gym of the former St. Anthony School, now part of Catholic Charities’ campus in the 2200 block of West Market Street. Sister Intravia, an Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph, coordinates the annual project, called Christmas Give Away: Sponsor a Child.
Volunteers from local parishes and schools spent this week and last sorting the items donated by parishes, schools and businesses around the area. Last Friday’s volunteers included five Catholic elementary school principals who spent the morning sorting donations by age, size and gender.
Another 40 or so volunteers buzzed around the gym on Monday sorting more donations. Among them were women religious, parishioners of a half-dozen churches and a handful of students from St. Xavier and Trinity high school.
St. Xavier senior Drew Anderson came to volunteer with his grandmother, Lee Holtzmann, and he brought his classmate Anthony Epifano along. The young men were glad to do it, they said.
“I know we’re doing a good thing,” said Epifano.
“I hope we help the kids have a good Christmas,” said Anderson.
His grandmother, at age 83, is a regular volunteer at Sister Visitor. She keeps it up, she said, “because you’ve got to thank the Lord some way.”
She noted that Drew is her youngest grandson and she also has 19 great-grandchildren. “I’ve been very, very fortunate.”
The parents they are helping are coming to Sister Visitor throughout this week to pick up the donations, including an age and gender appropriate gift for each of their children.
Children also will receive one new winter outfit, underpants and socks. Families will receive paper products, shampoo, laundry detergent and other supplies. Those families who qualify for food assistance also will receive Christmas food baskets.
Last year, Sister Intravia said, Sister Visitor aided 260 families at Christmas. Those families included a total of 1,058 individuals, she said.
The annual Christmas Give-away not only takes a great deal of volunteer effort, it also presents storage problems, Sister Intravia noted.
Thornton’s provided an answer to her prayers in mid-November. They built a holding area — that looks like a massive cage — in a basement area near the gym. Christmas donations that come in throughout the year can be stored there on rows and rows of shelves. The company also donated 100 care baskets that held shampoo, soaps and other supplies for families and gift cards to a grocery store.
All of the help Sister Visitor has received, she said, “is phenomenal.”
“I don’t know what to say,” she added. “It’s unbelievable.”